If I were an employee of Pinnacle Schools, I’d be very nervous. Of course they have a moral and ethical responsibility to report when a child is beaten, but times are hard and jobs scarce, etc., and there is retaliation to fear.
The thing is, if you are an employee of the Pinnacle Schools and you suspect a student has been abused, you can stop debating with yourself about what to do. You have no choice. You must inform the police. If it is discovered later that you were aware that a child was being abused and did nothing, then you may find yourself in trouble:
Section 26-14-13 – Penalty for failure to make required report.
Any person who shall knowingly fail to make the report required by this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a sentence of not more than six months’ imprisonment or a fine of not more than $500.00.
You should have been told about this when you were hired, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you weren’t. As a school employee, you are a mandatory reporter in the State of Alabama:
(a) All hospitals, clinics, sanitariums, doctors, physicians, surgeons, medical examiners, coroners, dentists, osteopaths, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists, nurses, school teachers and officials, peace officers, law enforcement officials, pharmacists, social workers, day care workers or employees, mental health professionals, members of the clergy as defined in Rule 505 of the Alabama Rules of Evidence, or any other person called upon to render aid or medical assistance to any child, when the child is known or suspected to be a victim of child abuse or neglect, shall be required to report, or cause a report to be made of the same, orally, either by telephone or direct communication immediately, followed by a written report, to a duly constituted authority.
If I were an employee of Pinnacle Schools, I would assume that this law applies to me, not just Karen Lee, but me.
Who is a “duly constituted authority”? Based on this, I think it would be the Huntsville Police Department:
Section 26-14-6.1 – Duties and responsibilities for investigation of reports.
The duty and responsibility for the investigation of reports of suspected child abuse or neglect shall be as follows:
(1) Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect involving disciplinary or corporal punishment committed in a public or private school or kindergarten shall be investigated by law enforcement agencies.
(2) Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect committed in a state-operated child residential facility shall be investigated by law enforcement agencies.
(3) All other reports of suspected child abuse and neglect shall be investigated by the Department of Human Resources.
Now then, for reasons best known to herself, in regard to the first report of abuse, Karen Lee apparently reported to DHR rather than to the Huntsville Police Department:
“This incident arose when one of our staff discovered marks on a student. Per our policy, we informed the parents, contacted DHR, and put a staff member on leave. The Pinnacle Schools is presently investigating this matter.”
Perhaps as a Pinnacle employee you don’t want to get involved because you fear retaliation by Lee or a civil suit if the guard isn’t arrested. I would hope that there are whistle-blower laws to help you with the first, for what they are worth, but liability for making a report that is dismissed is not something you need to worry about:
Section 26-14-9 – Immunity from liability for actions under chapter.
Any person, firm, corporation, or official, including members of a multidisciplinary child protection team, quality assurance team, child death review team, or other authorized case review team or panel, by whatever designation, participating in the making of a good faith report in an investigation or case review authorized under this chapter or other law or department practice or in the removal of a child pursuant to this chapter, or participating in a judicial proceeding resulting therefrom, shall, in so doing, be immune from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed.
These laws were enacted to counter the it’s not my problem, I don’t want to get involved, people won’t like me if I speak up mentality. A child’s welfare matters more than an adult’s desire not to rock the boat. It’s as simple as that.
Of course, you can still stay silent and risk paying the $500 or sitting in jail for six months and then having a misdemeanor on your record when next you seek employment (how much longer do you think Pinnacle will be open?).